Nuggets say Karl won’t return next season

NBA Coach of the Year George Karl won’t return to the Denver Nuggets next season, the team announced Thursday.

Karl posted a thank you to Nuggets fans through his Twitter account.

“I want to thank Nuggets fans for their support over the past 8 yrs. The karma on the street was incredible. Denver will always be home,” he tweeted.

The 62-year-old Karl, who is in the final year of his contract, wanted to extend his deal but the Nuggets balked at the request, Yahoo! Sports reported, citing a league source.

“George has been an instrumental part of our success over the past decade, and we appreciate everything he did to keep us among the top teams in the Western Conference,” team president Josh Kroenke said in a statement released Thursday. “He is a Hall of Fame coach whose legacy in Denver will last for years to come. George is a legend in the game of basketball and I could not have more respect for him as a person and coach.”

Karl is very intrigued by the open Los Angeles Clippers job, two sources close to the coach told ESPNLosAngeles.com’s Ramona Shelburne.

The feeling is mutual with the Clippers, who had preliminary conversations with Denver last week. A source with knowledge of the Clippers’ thinking said he will a candidate who will be “strongly considered.”

NBA coaching sources, meanwhile, told ESPN.com’s Marc Stein that the Memphis Grizzlies — who are still deciding whether or not to bring back Lionel Hollins — will definitely discuss their job with Karl now that he’s available.

One of the newest members of the Grizzlies’ front office — Stu Lash — worked with Karl in Denver.

Sources said that the Nuggets, furthermore, have interest in pursuing Hollins, who just led the Grizzlies to 56 wins and the first conference finals berth in franchise history.

The Grizzlies, sources say, have current Memphis assistant coach Dave Joerger and Karl at the top of their list should they part ways with Hollins.

As for the Clippers, one of the reasons that the team’s search to replace Vinny Del Negro has moved reasonably slowly, according to one source, is that the team was hoping that Karl’s future with the Nuggets would be resolved quickly in the wake of Denver general manager Masai Ujiri’s move to the Toronto Raptors.

It is not yet known if the Raptors, with Ujiri in charge now, will make a play for Karl. The coach Ujiri inherited — Dwane Casey — is entering the final year of his contract.

Ujiri, the NBA’s Executive of the Year, left the Nuggets to become the Raptors’ executive vice president of basketball operations.

Nuggets forward Kenneth Faried reacted with shock on Twitter to the news.

He tweeted: “So we lost a GM now a coach what’s next!?”

Ty Lawson, who led the Nuggets in scoring with 16.7 points per game, was equally shocked.

“All of this is crazy and unexpected, don’t know what to say,” he said in a text to The Denver Post.

Karl was named the NBA’s top coach after leading the Nuggets, who had the third-youngest roster in the NBA, to a 57-win season.

Karl had jokingly said during the season that he did not want to win the NBA’s Coach of the Year award because of its long history of creating outsized expectations for teams that ultimately resulted in the coach getting fired within a year or two of winning the award.

Part of that was superstition. But Karl was also aware, according to a source with knowledge of the situation, that management was unhappy with his reluctance to play young center JaVale McGee, whom they had signed to a four-year, $44 million extension in the offseason, among other things.

The Nuggets were the third seed in the Western Conference but were ousted in the first round by the Golden State Warriors. It was the eighth time in Karl’s nine playoff appearances with Denver that the Nuggets had been ousted in the first round.

Karl worked wonders this season with a lineup that lacked an All-Star, was beset by injuries to several starters and twisted its way through a brutal early-season schedule in which 22 of the team’s first 32 games were on the road.

Relying on an old-school, up-tempo offense and a deep bench that wore out opponents, especially at altitude, the Nuggets led the league in scoring, fast-break production and points in the paint with nary a dominant scorer.

They went an NBA-best 38-3 at home, winning their last 23 games at the Pepsi Center in the regular season and going 24-4 overall after the All-Star break.

A two-time cancer survivor, Karl changed his coaching style after returning from throat cancer in 2010. He delegated more duties at practice, relying on his assistant coaches to do much of the teaching.

Karl is 1,131-756 in his 25 seasons as head coach and 80-105 in the playoffs. In his time in Denver, Karl is 423-257 in the regular season with three division titles and 21-39 in the playoffs. Karl’s 21 straight non-losing seasons tie Phil Jackson for the longest streak in league history.

Information from ESPNLosAngeles.com’s Ramona Shelburne, ESPN.com’s Marc Stein and The Associated Press was used in this report.

This article was originally posted on ESPN.com


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